Blackjack is a comparing card game in which a player or more players compete against the dealer, but not against each other, and whoever is closer to 21 in that duel wins the pot. Blackjack is very popular as it’s a skill game in which an experienced player can beat the dealer repeatedly, and it’s also among casino games with the lowest house edge, from 0.5% to 1%, leading many gamblers to believe it’s a game that can be beaten. Blackjack is ever-present in all land-based casinos as well as online casinos.

Blackjack evolved from a game of unknown origin called twenty-one that was probably played in France and Spain, and when the game was introduced into the United States the hand that consists of an Ace and a 10 card got the name blackjack, which is the name that the game itself soon got.

Game rules

Each player, five to seven of them in a casino setting, is dealt two cards, and it is common for the dealer to get dealt one face-up card, or one hand face-up and one face-down in ‘hole card’ play, in which case the dealer will peek at the card but won’t reveal it unless it’s blackjack. The value of cards from 2 to 10 is their face value, Jack, Queen and King are worth 10, and Aces can be worth 1 or 11, whichever is the best for the player’s hand. Blackjack, or a natural 21, is a hand that consists of an Ace and a 10 card, while all other possible combinations that lead to 21 aren’t called blackjack but just simply 21. If a player wins, he’ll get evens payout, but for blackjack it will be either 3:2 or, in the worse case, 6:5. There is a rare possibility that blackjack will pay 2:1, and that would be a great table to play on.

Blackjack house edge differs according to the specific rules of each table. For example, if the dealer hits on soft 17 then he has an advantage over being forced to stand at soft 17. The player gets an advantage if he is allowed to double after a split, if he can double on any first two cards and not only 9-11 and 10-11, if he can resplit the Aces, and if he can hit resplit Aces. Of course, tables where blackjack pays 6 to 5 should be avoided as the house edge is much greater than when blackjack pays 3 to 2. The no hole card game adds approximately 0.11% to the house edge. Experienced blackjack players will know how to read the table rules and will avoid the ones where rules are against him, playing at a table with favorable rules. House edge increases with the number of decks used, so that’s another thing to keep an eye out for. With fewer decks, the chance of a player landing a blackjack after getting an Ace increases, and fewer decks also greatly decrease the chance that the game will end in a push with blackjacks for both the dealer and the player. The number of decks used can be between one and eight. It’s these rules that actually give the casino an edge over an uninformed player.

How to play Blakjack

The goal of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible, 21 being the best possible scenario, and when the value of cards surpasses 21 then the game is lost. For playing blackjack successfully, it’s important to compare your own hand to the one that the dealer gets, and either playing conservatively and hoping the dealer will go bust (his total will go above 21) or playing aggressively and hoping you’ll be closer to 21 than the dealer will.

After receiving the first two cards, the player can make one of five choices - hit, stand, double down, split or surrender. If a player chooses to stand he will receive no more cards, and this is usually signaled to the dealer by waving hand horizontally above the cards. If a player chooses to hit he will get one additional card, and this is signaled by tapping the finger on the table. If the first two cards the players was dealt are of the same value, then the player can split them into two hands, and this is signaled to the dealer by pointing with two fingers spread in a V. Usually all cards of same value can be split, so a King and a 10 can be split. The two hands are treated as separate hands so the player will get a new card for each hand. Double down means the player will double his bet on the hand, in exchange for committing to stand after receiving exactly one more card. Surrender is an option in which case the player will forfeit half of his stake, and is used when a player has a really lousy hand compared to what the dealer has or may have. The signal to surrender is just made verbally.

If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, the player may be offered insurance, which is a side bet that normally pays 2 to 1 if a dealer gets blackjack from his second card, which has almost 33% chance of happening. The player is usually allowed to bet up to half of the value of the original bet on insurance. Insurance bets are expected to lose money in the long run, as in 67% of cases the insurance wouldn’t have been needed as the dealer won’t get the blackjack.

There are generally accepted basic rules on what is a proper way to play blackjack, and what are the correct decisions in any of the possible situations on the blackjack table. For example, the player should always stand when his total is from 17 to 20, and should also stand if the total is 13 to 17, but only if the dealer’s face-up card is 2 to 6. With a total of 11 the player should always double, and should also double with a total of 10 but only if the dealer doesn’t have 10 or 11. In case a player gets two same cards, a pair, the best choice with 10 and 10 is to stand, while in most other cases the pair should be split.

Card counting is a strategy some players use to gain up to a 2% edge over the dealer, and it is technically legal and not considered cheating unless the player is using an external device, though a casino will prevent the player from playing blackjack again in that establishment - or do something worse - if they notice a player is counting cards. In online play, it’s not possible to count cards as the deck is shuffled after every hand is completed.

Online blackjack for real money

Along with roulette, blackjack is the most popular table game so almost all online casinos, except those that focus solely on slots, will have it. Online blackjack can be played as video blackjack where cards are dealt using a random number generator, or as live blackjack where the player will see the dealer on the screen.

Since almost all casinos offer blackjack, there’s no shortage of options for the player, and a wise player will choose a table with favorable or at least less unfavorable rules. Also, while most casinos don’t allow blackjack to be counted towards play through requirements for the deposit bonus, some allow it with a greatly reduced contribution such as 25% or even as low as 10%.

Live dealer online blackjack is the preferred choice of many players, as it’s a bit solitary to be playing video blackjack, and since the game is played against the dealer many players prefer to actually see the dealer, and perhaps enjoy the company of other online players at the table. There are live dealer blackjack games that just show you the dealer, and then there are those that are actually streamed from famous land-based casinos. The dealer will usually use over-sized playing cards so they are easier to see on the screen.

All versions of blackjack are more or less the same and it won’t make a difference if video blackjack, land-based casino blackjack or live dealer blackjack are chosen. What makes the difference is the payout for blackjack and other rules of the table, most importantly if the dealer must stand on 17, and the number of decks is also another thing to consider. Blackjack can be a profitable game but many hands need to be played to make a significant amount of money, as it’s basically a game where dealer and player have roughly the same chances of winning, dealer having around 55% chance and player having around 45% chance, with the player’s skill a big factor. Many players use one of progressive betting systems in blackjack that increase the bet after a hand is lost, though some reinvest their wins instead and hope for a winning streak.